It’s late October here in Prescott, Arizona, and summer seems to be lingering, maybe loitering, as if it had nothing better to do. Frost has yet to visit, and the warm afternoons invite shorts and light shirts, somewhat to the delight of the mosquitoes, who have not given up on summer either.
But the birds are not fooled. Bald Eagles are showing up at the lakes, where the swallows are long gone. Sparrows and juncos visit the feeders, far from their breeding grounds, while orioles and grosbeaks are likely sipping the avian equivalent of margaritas south of the border. Continue reading →
Taking stock. No, I am not talking about financial matters—something much more important actually. The arrival of 2012 reminds me to reflect upon my life, not on transient accomplishments or on political or social disappointments. Few of those things are lasting, scarcely more significant in my life than the taste of yesterday’s breakfast. What was it that I ate, anyway?
What should be important is what I chose to share with others. My vow this year—one that is much more realistic than how many pounds I will lose, how often I intend to work out, or what yard work I may or may not get to—is to open myself to greater sharing. Sharing can take many forms, and my intentions are not limited to one form. However, in this essay, I am indeed focusing on one thing—the written word. For “in the Beginning was the Word.”Continue reading →
Deep within us we carry the genetic legacy of our distant ancestors. When we hear the mournful howl of a wolf, there is a shiver down our spine, a surge of adrenalin that we cannot control. We respond automatically and positively when we view a cute and cuddly creature or one of the “charismatic megafauna.” For some people, the call of the wild has become more of a whisper, but it’s there.
Recently I gave the keynote address for the 2011 Regional Urban Wildlife Symposium sponsored by the Open Space Alliance of Yavapai County, Arizona. Joe Phillips videotaped it and posted it on You Tube, so here it is if you want to hear and see my take on THE CALL OF THE WILD: ARE WE LISTENING?
Harris's Hawk is responding to climate warming in Arizona
After a day spent mostly at the computer screen, I need to stretch. Granite Dells stretches me, pulls me irresistibly into the mazes of outcrops and canyons, especially appealing when thunderheads have finished their rumbling and are sailing away across the heavens, mission accomplished.
I head toward Granite Creek, its cottonwoods pulsing with the choruses of strident cicadas. Though monsoon storms have been modest at best in this neighborhood, the weeds, native and otherwise, are dense and lush. Fortunately, mosquito populations here are lower than last year, and as long as I keep moving, I avoid serious blood-letting.
There are signs here indicating that this is a restoration area, and the twenty-foot cottonwoods and shorter velvet ash and hackberry trees are evidence that recovery is occurring. A developer had grand plans for this area, and he drained a small recreational lake that had been used by residents and tourists alike in the “good old days” of early Prescott. He also cut out the willows and cottonwoods that framed the pond and leveled the whole works for his development. There were plans for a bridge across Granite Creek where now there is a fair-weather ford—a bridge that might have impeded Wood Ducks and Black-Hawks as they flew up and downstream searching for food. With money pouring from his deep pockets and machines moving the earth with seeming impunity, he didn’t take one thing into account: his development was right next to the property of one of the Dells’ most colorful characters, Happy Heavenly Oasis (no, this is not a pseudonym). Continue reading →
A friend of mine sent me a newspaper clipping and asked “What the heck is going on here?” Entitled “ ‘ Porpoisidal’ Dolphins,” the article quotes some marine mammal researchers who witnessed “violent and fatal” attacks by bottlenose dolphins on harbor porpoises. They were baffled that one marine mammal would attack and kill others not likely to be direct competitors, but they speculated that high levels of testosterone might have been involved.
It’s challenging to evaluate such reports because of our human perspectives. We shake our heads at human gang-rapes and shooting sprees, somewhat comforted that these are aberrations even among humans. We accept the range of human variability without recognizing anything similar among other animals. Then some researchers discover panicidal (murderous) chimps or individual baboons that stalk and kill young antelope. Then there is Fifi, behaving just fine at home but becoming a raging pack animal out to kill when running loose with other “domestic” dogs. These are perhaps the flip side of cases where the lion lies down with the lamb, where the tiger mother raises piglets or the she-wolf raises a feral boy. You can advance hypotheses about the overwhelming strength of maternal instincts or the corrupting influence of testosterone; some may prove true, others not. The interesting thing is that we are surprised. Continue reading →